Why I am the way I am sometimes...
There are some things that I do that I do not do willfully. They are not intentional and easily misunderstood/misinterpreted.
Last week I found out something that many of my friends could have told me years ago but just recently went to the doctor to confirm: I have Combined Type ADHD (the most common type). There has been a prominent delay in the development of the part of my brain responsible for controlling and focusing my thoughts. On the other hand, the motor control section of my brain has developed and matured much faster than normal (AKA drumming and parkour skills!). Just because I have ADHD does not mean that I'm just running around from one thing to the next every minute saying, "Ooo! Something shiny!" or, "Look a squirrel!" It's actually pretty serious sometimes, and truthfully, it has affected/will affect my relationships. This is why I consider it important to briefly overview. Sometimes I do things that I do not mean to do. I want you to understand that if I have been or am:
- easily distracted and lose focus and attention (even mid conversation),
- too focused on something and tune all else out (hyperfocus/superfocus),
- late and completely lose track of time,
- disorganized and unable to manage my time and prioritize my activities,
- forgetful or
- persistent and stubborn with you in conversations,
I did not do it willfully. These are common symptoms of ADHD.
It's also important to note that while I do have ADHD, there are many symptoms of ADHD that I do NOT have. For instance, I am not usually impulsive or impatient.
Despite all the many negative symptoms you hear about from ADHD, there are actually many positive symptoms. For example, many people with ADHD are creative, original, full of positive energy, independent thinkers, big-hearted, generous, charismatic, and have a zany sense of humor.
The bottom line is that my brain is different. There are pros and cons to this, but the important thing is that there is a healthy and mutual understanding in all my relationships.
P.S. If you don't believe all that jazz I said above, here are the sources I referenced:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) actually includes three different types of ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive Type, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined Type.
Most people refer to the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD simply as ADD. These individuals may have trouble paying attention, finishing tasks, or following directions. They may also easily become distracted; appear forgetful, careless and disorganized; and frequently lose things.
Those with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD may appear restless, fidgety, overactive and impulsive. They "act before thinking" and often "speak before thinking" by blurting out and interrupting others. People with these hyperactive/impulsive behaviors may play and interact loudly. They have difficulty staying in their seat, talk excessively, and have trouble waiting turns. They may seem to be perpetually "on the go."
Individuals with combined type of ADHD display both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.
ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive Type [...]
- is easily distracted, has difficulty paying attention in tasks, especially on tasks that are long and tedious
ADHD: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type [...]
- fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- runs around or climbs excessively
- is often "on the go" or acts as if "driven by a motor"
ADHD: Combined Type
- meets both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive criteria"
In my opinion, ADHD is a terrible term. As I see it, ADHD is neither a disorder, nor is there a deficit of attention. I see ADHD as a trait, not a disability. When it is managed properly, it can become a huge asset in one's life. I both have ADHD myself and I wrote a book with Catherine Corman profiling a collections of fabulously successful adults all of whom have ADHD, so I know whereof I speak.
As I like to describe it, having ADD is like having a powerful race car for a brain, but with bicycle brakes. Treating ADD is like strengthening your brakes–so you start to win races in your life.
People with ADD typically are creative, intuitive, original, and full of positive energy. They tend to be independent thinkers. They are persistent to the point of being stubborn. They usually are quite sensitive, but often cover this over with a kind of bravado. They are big-hearted and generous. They often have charisma or a special something, a twinkle in the eye, a zany sense of humor, or an ability to inspire others. With the right kind of guidance, these people can become hugely successful in their lives.
People with ADD typically have trouble paying attention and focusing, especially when they are not interested. On the other hand they can superfocus at times. They also can be impulsive and sometimes hyperactive and disruptive. They can have trouble getting organized, prioritizing their activities, managing time, and completing tasks.
They can be forgetful, inconsistent in follow-through, and often late. They have trouble with planning and what mental health professionals call "executive functioning." The good news is that treatment can ameliorate or correct all of this, so that the positive attributes can carry the day.
One way to conceptualize it is to think of ADHD as three scales, one for inattention, one for hyperactivity, and one for impulsivity. If children are rated from 1 to 10 on each scale, there can be a child who will be 10-0-0. There can also be a child who is 0-10-10. But most children will be some variation more like 5-7-8.
And, by the way, when we say a deficit in paying attention what we mean is paying attention to dull, boring or repetitive tasks not of your choosing. Anyone with a child who has ADHD can tell you that they have no trouble paying attention to video games or a movie.
Common Behaviors and Problems of Adult ADHD
The following behaviors and problems may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of related adjustment difficulties: [...]
- Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
- Difficulty concentrating when reading
- Procrastination [...] These behaviors may be mild to severe and can vary with the situation or be present all of the time. Some adults with ADHD may be able to concentrate if they are interested in or excited about what they are doing. Others may have difficulty focusing under any circumstances. Some adults look for stimulation, but others avoid it. In addition, adults with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial, or they can be overly social, going from one relationship to the next."
Inattention may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging environment of school. In adults, symptoms of inattention may manifest in work or in social situations.
- Inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities
- Difficulty finishing school work or paperwork or performing tasks that require concentration
- Frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
- Disorganized work habits
Hyperactivity symptoms may be apparent in very young preschoolers and are nearly always present before the age of seven. Symptoms include:
- Fidgeting, squirming when seated
- Running or climbing excessively
- Always being 'on the go'
Several of the symptoms of ADHD may get worse as the demands at school or home increase. They include:
- Being unable to get organized, either at home or at school
- Fidgeting, especially with the hands and feet
- Failing to finish projects, including chores and homework
The delay is prominent in the frontal cortex and temporal lobe, which are believed to be responsible for the ability to control and focus thinking. In contrast, the motor cortex in the ADHD patients was seen to mature faster than normal, suggesting that both slower development of behavioral control and advanced motor development might be required for the fidgetiness that characterizes ADHD.